A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 27

A.N.

Something for the weekend? Another chapter maybe?

Well, as it’s looking like a wet weekend here in the UK, I thought I would try to entertain you for a little while at least.

So, here is your second installment for this week. Only 4 more to go so stay tuned to see how things turn out.

 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Elizabeth flung the door of her father’s study wide open and stood there, her breathing heavy from the exertion of leaving Darcy.

“Is it true? You knew of Mr Darcy’s deception and kept it from me?”

Mr Bennet had expected this. He had kept the truth from her, and it did not sit well with him. However, beloved daughter or not, this was no way for a daughter to behave towards her father.

He removed his spectacles and placed them on his desk before leaning back in his chair.

“Come in, Elizabeth.” His tone was firm and slightly sardonic.

Elizabeth closed the door and stood before her father’s desk. Her arms folded across her chest in a defensive stance.

“Sit down.”

“Thank you, sir, but I prefer to stand.”

“You have spoken to Darcy and now come to remonstrate with me. You are angry at having been deceived. I understand that, but I am your father and the head of this family. I make the decisions in this house, for the good of the house and its occupants.” His tone softened noticeably. “I could see from the moment you returned from Derbyshire, that you had changed. It became even more evident when Mr Darcy came to call. You looked on him with tender eyes, Lizzy. So, when he came to me and told me of his plight, I took pity on the lad. He loves you, Lizzy, and you wore your love for him like a badge on your bonnet. And yet you denied it.”

Elizabeth did not want to be patronised, she was angry and wanted to vent that anger on the people that had lied to her.

“I could not accept him before, Father. You know I could not!”

“And what stood between you that was so insurmountable? His wealth? His generosity? Or maybe it was your pride, Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth opened her mouth to refute his accusation, but Mr Bennet gave her no opportunity to reply.

“Now, Lizzy, I made my decision on the facts set before me and I stand by it. Mr Darcy has revealed his duplicity in the matter, and you should find it in your heart to forgive him. His motives were honourable.”

“Father!” she exclaimed in vexation.

“Enough now, Lizzy, the matter is closed. Unless you desire to break your engagement and your poor mother’s heart, I suggest you go to your room and ponder your prospects before you do anything rash.”

Elizabeth ran upstairs and slammed the bedroom door behind her. Pacing to and fro, she muttered about how easily men lied and how women were expected to forgive them the moment they confessed. Deceit should carry a consequence, not be rewarded!

A few minutes passed with Elizabeth pacing in this manner until her thoughts were interrupted by someone gently tapping on her door.

“Lizzy, it’s Jane? May I come in?”

If anyone could understand her anger and frustration, it was Jane.

“Yes, Jane, come in.”

Jane entered and then waited for Elizabeth to be still.

“Did you hear what Papa said to me, Jane?” Elizabeth asked indignantly.

Jane crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Yes. Mamma was going to come and speak to you, but Father sent me instead.”

“Well, she would not have changed my mind, and neither will you, Jane.”

The calming softness of Jane’s voice eased some of Elizabeth’s tension, and she moved to sit on the bed with her.

“You have made your decision then?”

“I cannot marry a liar, Jane. I would never have a minute’s peace of mind. Never knowing if he spoke the truth or not. I cannot be expected to live like that. Mr Darcy is a hypocrite. He told me he abhorred deceit of any kind. Yet it is perfectly acceptable for him to involve me in a lie!”

Jane knew what she must do. The memories of those months she believed she had been abandoned by Mr Bingley were the most painful of her life. The utter desolation she felt when she thought him lost to her had been almost crippling, both physically and mentally.

“Lizzy, when Mr Bingley left Netherfield last winter, I thought my heart should break. I could not imagine my life without him in it, and yet I had too. I went to London in the hope that I might run into him, believing that if he just saw me again, he would realise he loved me still. But it was not to be. I had to resign myself to never knowing absolute happiness again.”

Elizabeth squeezed Jane’s hand.

“But Mr Bingley did love you, Jane. He did come back to you.”

“Yes, but it was Mr Darcy who gave him the courage to return and seek me out.”

Jane watched as Elizabeth’s mouth turned downwards into something akin to a petulant sulk, but still, she continued.

“When Anne De Bourgh needed someone to help her, she turned to her cousin, Mr Darcy. He did not turn her away, knowing he would incur the wrath of Lady Catherine. Instead, he brought her to a place her mother would not find her and helped her marry the man she loved.”

“Yes, yes, Jane. I know of all Mr Darcy’s wonderful qualities, but he lied to me, don’t you see? How could I ever trust him again?”

“Oh, Lizzy, it is not possible to go through life telling nothing but the absolute truth. Even we have told the occasional lie, Lizzy. Did we not tell mamma that we went straight to the haberdashers last week, knowing full well that we stopped for refreshments at Aunt Philips? And when Lydia asked to borrow your amber necklace, you told her it was misplaced because you were concerned she would lose it. Yet we both know you hid it in my jewellery box for safe keeping. Dearest Lizzy look at the happiness Mr Darcy’s deeds have brought. Lydia and Wickham married, Miss De Bourgh and Mr Galbraith on their wedding trip, and Mr Bingley and I are betrothed. He has done nothing malicious, Lizzy.” Jane smiled, and leant closer to say, “If anything, I would say he is something of a matchmaker.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips in a rueful smile. Mr Darcy, the matchmaker. She conjured up a ridiculous image in her mind of Mr Darcy introducing prospective couples to each other while their mothers stood in the background waving hands full of money.

“Oh, Jane, it’s not just that. It’s the fact that everyone seemed to know about it except me. He had made a fool of me.”

Jane got up and walked to the door, but before she left, she turned to Elizabeth with one last observation.

“Do you love Mr Darcy any less for his kindness, Lizzy, or is your pride more important than being happy?”

Elizabeth stared at the closed door. Jane had also accused her of being prideful. Could it really be that simple? Was it only her bruised pride that made her rally against Mr Darcy? Indeed, when he bruised her pride at the Meryton Assembly, has she not grasped at Mr Wickham’s tale of woe with alacrity? Was she only in this situation now, because she had been stubborn and disinclined to forgive?

Her anger and frustration had turned to confusion and self-reproach, making her head hurt and draining her body of its energy. Unable to think straight anymore, Elizabeth knew there was only one way to relieve the tension headache that was now afflicting her.

Pulling her pillow towards her, Elizabeth rested her head on it and curled her legs up on the bed.

When Jane returned with a cup of tea for her sister, that was how she found her, curled up in the middle of the bed, asleep. Jane quietly closed the door behind her and returned downstairs.

Elizabeth roused when she heard Lydia and Kitty arguing. They were squabbling over who should take her place at the dinner table if she remained in her room. Giving her eyes a rub, Elizabeth slipped off the bed and straightened her dress before opening the bedroom door.

“There is no need for you two to argue. I will be down for dinner as soon as I have splashed some water on my face.”

“I just thought as I am a married woman, I should take your seat Lizzy,” snipped Lydia.

“But as I am a full two years older, it should be me!” replied Kitty.

Elizabeth closed the door and rested back on it. She would really have preferred to eat in her room tonight, but Mr Darcy was expected. Yet how could she face him? She had still not determined whether to break their engagement or not.

After washing her face and changing her dress, she smoothed her hair back into place and went downstairs.

As usual, they gathered in the drawing room until the butler announced dinner was ready. Tonight, seemed no different. However, when Elizabeth entered, she saw only Mr Bingley. Darcy and the Colonel were conspicuous by their absence.

Elizabeth joined Jane and Mr Bingley on the divan by the window. The warm summer breeze flowed in through the open French door, a welcome relief from the hot afternoon sun.

“Miss Elizabeth, I have been commissioned to pass on a message to you from Mr Darcy. He regrets that he is unable to attend this evening’s festivities and begs your forgiveness,” Mr Bingley’s statement sounded slightly rehearsed, but he was relieved to have executed its delivery.

Elizabeth was more than slightly surprised to hear that her intended had cried off from seeing her that evening. She thought he had more mettle than that.

“And the colonel, does he keep Mr Darcy company this evening?”

“Unfortunately, not, Miss Elizabeth. Colonel Fitzwilliam left for London this morning. He is to escort Miss Darcy back to Hertfordshire.”

“Miss Darcy?”

“Yes, she is coming to stay at Netherfield for few days, maybe even a week or two, if she can be persuaded.”

Elizabeth turned her gaze to Jane. What could he mean by bringing his sister to Netherfield? Did he wish to add Miss Darcy’s argument to his own in persuading her to forgive him?

Jane answered Elizabeth’s unspoken question with a discrete shrug of her shoulders.

Elizabeth turned back to Mr Bingley.

“I hope Mr Darcy is not unwell, sir?”

Mr Bingley felt most uncomfortable. His friend had confided in him all that had transpired between himself and Miss Elizabeth, and now he could not help but feel responsible. After all, it was at his suggestion that Darcy concocted this ruse.

“I am sure…well, fairly sure, that he will be sufficiently recovered to return on the morrow, Miss Elizabeth.”

At that point, the butler entered and announced dinner was ready to be served.

Elizabeth could feel her parent’s displeasure. Though they said nought, the looks she received from her mother conveyed how angry she was, while her father chose to ignore her presence altogether. It was left to Lydia to raise the matter.

“I saw Lizzy with Mr Darcy in the garden today, and she was being beastly to him.”

“Lydia!” Elizabeth said reproachfully.

Silence ensued. All eyes looked to Elizabeth; all except for Mr Bennet.

“If you have had your fill of the food, Lydia, I suggest you go to your room,” said Mr Bennet.

But Lydia would not be silenced.

“Has he thrown you over, Lizzy? Is that why he is not here tonight?”

Jane now exclaimed, “Lydia!”

“Go to your room this instant, young lady!” Mr Bennet ordered.

“But I am a married woman. You cannot treat me as if I were a child;”

Mr Bennet pushed back his chair and stood up. He threw down his napkin and addressed Lydia directly.

“Married and widowed you may be, Lydia Bennet, but inside you are still a troublesome and disobedient child. Marriage has not taught you to hold your tongue nor the meaning of discretion. Now go to your room and while you are there think about what I have said!”

Lydia looked around the room. Usually, she relished being the centre of attention, but she was mortified at being chastised in front of Mr Bingley.

Trying to fight back the tear, she stood up and walked towards the door. But not before she had the final word.

“My name is Lydia Wickham.” And with those parting words, she closed the door behind her.

Mr Bennet sat down and tucked his napkin back into his collar. He had no intention of wasting good food, nor of going hungry.

“The beef is particularly tender tonight my dear. Remind me to compliment the cook in the morning,” he said as if nothing had happened.

Lydia’s outburst was apparently to be ignored. But Elizabeth thought, for once, that she had been treated harshly. Lydia had only voiced what everyone else was thinking.

Whether this softening towards Lydia’s outspoken behaviour was due to Elizabeth’s disapprobation with her father, no-one knew, but Elizabeth resolved to go and speak to her sister as soon as it was politely possible to excuse herself.

Elizabeth tapped on Lydia’s door, but when no reply was forthcoming, she pushed it open and begged for permission to come in.

“What do you want Lizzy?” Lydia asked sulkily.

“I brought you this.” Elizabeth held out a buttered roll that had a thick slice of ham between its folds.

Lydia’s hunger overtook her bad mood, and she gratefully took the food from Elizabeth’s hand.

With her mouth full of ham and bread, Lydia motioned for her sister to sit with her.

“What are you doing up here?” she managed to ask as she masticated an unusually large bite.

“Well, I came to say sorry. I think Father dealt with you harshly tonight because he is displeased with me. Although, you must learn to think before you speak, Lydia. The dinner table was not the place to ask such a personal question, nor in the presence of company.”

“But Mr Bingley is going to be family, Lizzy.”

“Yes, but he is not yet family. You must learn to hold your tongue and have better manners. You are no longer a child, Lydia.”

“I do try, Lizzy, honestly I do, but it is so hard trying to be…well you!”

For the first time, Elizabeth realised that Lydia looked up to her as a role model. This revelation came as something of a shock.

Suddenly, she saw Lydia in a different light. No longer the annoying little sister, but a young girl learning to be a woman.

Rather than chastise her efforts, Elizabeth realised she must aid her sister’s transition.

“If you would like, I can help you, Lydia?”

Lydia turned to Elizabeth with wide eyes and struggled to swallow the food in her mouth, before saying, “But not like a teacher, with punishments if I get it wrong.”

“No, there will be no punishments, Lydia, but I may have to ask Jane to help too?”

“But why must Jane know? Why must anyone else know?”

“Lydia, soon I will be married and gone from this country. If…”

“So, you are going to marry Mr Darcy, Lizzy?”

Elizabeth could not lie, not after all the fuss she had made about Mr Darcy deceiving her.

“I…I am not sure, Lydia. I think we must talk before I make the final decision. But until then, I am here to help you. Now, the first thing you must do is apologise to Papa. Wait until Mr Bingley returns to Netherfield and then go down and make your peace with our Father.”

Lydia looked down at the floor and began studying the pattern on the carpet as if her life depended on it.

“Do you want my help Lydia, or not?”

Lydia glanced at her sister from under her lashes and nodded.

“Good, that’s settled then. Good night, Lydia.”

“Good night, Lizzy, and…thank you.”

p.s.

My dear friends, as you know, both here and on FanFiction, I have posted all my books entirely free of charge, hoping fellow enthusiasts would enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. This is something I firmly believe in doing. You are always appreciative and honest, helping where I might not see something that needs correcting or spotting something that does not flow quite as smoothly as it could. This two way street is much appreciated by us indie authors. However, I was wondering if any of you would be open to posting a review on my books on Amazon? There is a lot of competition in my genre and the more reviews you get the more your work gets out there. No purchase is necessary to leave a review, so, I humbly ask that if you have enjoyed any of my books, that you leave me positive review. Of course, if you would rather not, please don’t feel pressured to do so, but every little helps.

Thanking you so much,

Till next time,

Martine xx

 

2 thoughts on “A Love Most Ardent; Chapter 27

  1. Oh Lizzy, you critize Mr Darcy for his pride and you are as bad if not worse than him, also add stubbornness to your faults. What Darcy did was for his love of you, your behaviour is just being spiteful.
    Love seeing Lydia so vunerable.
    Great chapter, look forward to your next update X

  2. Hard truths. And her pride is still preventing her from acknowledging the truth of the words of others. Loved the scene between Lydia and Elizabeth. Very special and touching.

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